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Title: From AMI schools to EMI universities : a critical examination of the Arab undergraduate students' perceptions of their academic Arabic proficiency and Arab identity in three EMI universities in the UAE
Author: Masri, T.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 9134
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the use of English as a medium of instruction (MI) has been a naturalized and taken-for-granted practice without thorough questioning or problematizing. This very adoption of English medium instruction (EMI) policy is done at the expense of academic Arabic that is almost absent from the academic scene in higher education. What is more problematic is the association of academic Arabic with few elective courses in humanities that can be taken in English, while reserving for English all the major courses. The study aims to problematize the use of English as medium of instruction at three universities in the UAE. It aims to critically explore the perceptions of Arab undergraduate students, who were in Arabic schools, vis-a-vis their proficiency in academic Arabic that they previously studied in. It also aims to examine the psychological, academic, social and cultural transitional changes that accompanied the shift of the language of instruction from Arabic to English. Another aim of the study is to assess the preferences of these students regarding language of instruction and the utility of academic Arabic in their academic life and future jobs. The last aim is to examine how students perceive their Arab identity after studying in EMI universities. The study is based on critical theoretical framework because the decision to use English as medium of instruction is political rather than pedagogical. The study was approached from the interpretive and critical paradigms. A sequential mixed-methods approach of quantitative and qualitative data collection was used. 268 surveys, and 20 semi-structured interviews were used in Fall 2017. The findings suggest that students were aware of the decline in their academic Arabic proficiency. The findings also suggest that students showed symptoms of academic Arabic language attrition based on forgetting academic words they knew before, needing more time to remember and facing difficulty coming up with the right words when talking about their major courses. They also reported psychological, academic, social and cultural difficulties associated with the transition from Arabic medium instruction schools to English medium instruction universities. Results also showed that many of the students seem to have lost their faith in academic Arabic as a language of academia and see English Medium Instruction (EMI) as the normal and required language of instruction, but still consider academic Arabic an essential part of their identity that cannot be wiped away, which raises questions about their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Overall, the study had several implications related to language policy and its impact on the status of academic Arabic in academic contexts. Students did not seem ready for EMI linguistically, socially or culturally but tolerated these challenges because the unbalanced diglossia between English and academic Arabic in academia seems to mislead them into believing that the relation between English and science is organic and that English is the only valued language in academia. Also, the use of EMI seems responsible for their declining abilities in academic Arabic and for acquiring new knowledge only in English. The study makes several recommendations that can help regain the balance in academia. First, language policy should be problematized, thought of and revisited because it is clear that any attempt to save academic Arabic cannot be effective if it is outside the academic arena. Only then, academic Arabic can be revived to reclaim its legacy as a language of academia and sciences. Also, students should be given the choice to study their major courses in English or Arabic. We need to embrace a discourse of hope intertwined with action because hopelessness is a form of sterile silence (Freire, 1972).
Supervisor: Troudi, S. ; Katene, W. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Proficiency ; Identity ; Higher education ; EMI ; UAE ; Academic Arabic